Austin City Council will vote to increase fines for parking in a transit priority lane from $25 to $500 on Thursday.
The bus-only lanes that run along Guadalupe and Lavaca streets see approximately 60 buses come through during peak hours. The city said it needs to get rid of any on-street parking, stopping or standing within the lane or non-transit use of the lane for its most efficient use.
Under current law, the Austin Transportation Department can implement “No Parking, Stopping, Standing” with Tow-Away provisions for special use lanes that result in a $25 fine if violated. City officials said they don’t think this is a significant deterrent for certain drivers, like commercial delivery drivers and taxi cab drivers, who view the fine as a fair exchange for the cost of doing business.
The owners at Lone Star Legacies in downtown Austin haven’t even been here six months. They moved to a new location on Lavaca Street for more parking. But right after they signed the lease, the parking on the right side of the street was taken away.
“As a small business owner, we’re fighting to keep our doors open every day as it is,” said store owner Holly Mace-Massingill. “This additional fee amount is kind of ridiculous…and then now on top of that, if someone’s going just run in and drop something off to get a $500 fine, that pretty much guarantees that person’s not coming back.”
And that’s not the only concern. As it is, those delivering food to restaurants like Texas Chili Parllor are supposed to park across the street or find a spot in a nearby alley, often making it inconvenient to make deliveries.
On Tuesday, a delivery truck was parked in one of the travel lanes.
“We have up to 20 people a day come in asking where we can we park,” said Russell Rich, manager at the Texas Chili Parlor. We just basically tell them whatever you can find.”
“The last place we want delivery drivers to park is in an active travel lane,” said Gordon Derr with Austin’s Transportation Department. “But we certainly have seen $25 is not enough to deter some people from parking in travel lanes.”
ATD worked with businesses along the Guadalupe and Lavaca Transit Priority Lane and with major delivery companies to accommodate their delivery needs onto side streets, but the city said they are not being observed. ATD said it is critical that the parking regulations on transit priority lanes are put in place by establishing a higher fine.
Austin City Council members will vote on the increase Thursday. If it passes, it will go into effect next Monday.